World of the Witch: The Wiccan Tradition
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the word, "witch" and what comes to mind? Few words
have such a diverse range of interpretations, ranging from the
stereotype of the evil witch to Samantha, the TV witch or her
contemporary media kindred on Charmed. From Hollywood sensationalism
to negative stereotypes, none of these accurately reflect the
reality of modern Wicca or Witchcraft. In truth, Wicca, as a spiritual
path can be a challenge to define. Unlike many other religions,
there are no sacred texts or singular spiritual leaders to reference.
Spirituality within Wicca is strongly self directed, with the
individual drawing from personal research as well as creative
self expression to craft their version of Wicca.
is a positive, nature based path centred on reverence for the
creative forces of the universe. Wiccans understand deity as a
Goddess and a God, who together embody balance and all potential.
Deity is immanent, dwelling within all of creation - the world
around us - and within each individual. This balance of divine
forces, the Goddess and the God, sets Wicca apart from many of
the familiar religious traditions.
Goddess in particular can be a challenging concept, but one that
strongly resonates with many women and men who are searching for
a more egalitarian religious outlook. The Goddess and God may
be called upon by any of their many names from world mythology
or may simply be understood as vast universal feminine and masculine
forces. All Goddesses are one Goddess and all Gods are one God
in Wicca, each distinct name or archetype is a facet of the whole.
The Goddess is often symbolized by the moon in its phases. The
Maiden aspect corresponds to the new moon growing in the sky,
embodying youth, energy and beginnings. The Full moon is the Mother
Goddess, a women in her creative prime, responsible and nurturing.
The last, waning phase is the Crone aspect, the Wise Woman who
has a wealth of life experiences to teach. The God too is a unique
concept in Wicca. His associations are with the natural world
and the sun in the sky. The archetypes worshipped in Wicca are
those of a strong protector as well as a loving nurturer. The
God as Horned God, the lord of the wild spaces, crowned with stag¹s
antlers, is a popular aspect the masculine deity, and one that
has been demonized in centuries past to equate the God of the
nature religions of the pre-Christian era with Christian concept
of the devil.
the somewhat amorphous nature of Wicca, several principles do
define what is and what is not Wicca. Of primary importance is
the main tenet called the Wiccan Rede - If it harm none, do what
you will - one sentence that calls on the individual to consider
their words and deeds in terms of how they will affect their environment
and to act with personal responsibility and consideration. Whatever
energy is sent out into the universe returns to the sender threefold
(remember the saying you reap what you sow?), If you are acting
as a positive healing force in the world, that energy will return
to you in the form of blessings whereas if you are deceitful or
malicious, that too will return to you three times over.
share a belief in a natural form of magic or earth based energy
that can be tapped into achieve change and transformation. Magic
and Witches have always been linked in the popular imagination
but this is probably the most misunderstood part of Wicca. No
lightning bolts from the finger tips here, but rather a reverence
for the natural energies present within the earth and each person.
must always work within the context of the Rede when working magic,
using the energies raised for positive work. And how does this
all work, exactly? The energies used are not supernatural, rather
they work completely within the natural order of the world. One
of my favourite authors, Starhawk, likens the energy to a stream.
You can redirect the stream to irrigate a field or dam it for
a swimming hole but you can¹t force the water to run uphill
or freeze solid mid-summer. A spell for healing a friend¹s
broken leg won¹t heal the damage overnight but will assist
the leg to mend as quickly as possible with no complications or
pain. And if you¹re still feeling a bit skeptical about all
this, remember that magnetism and the ability of a rock to attract
metal was the height of magic centuries ago and today is an accepted
scientific fact. Who knows what may be revealed in later years?
central to Wiccan practice is a strong belief in reincarnation,
a conviction that the spiritual essence of each being returns
again and again to learn and evolve with each life. Being a religious
tradition grounded in observation of the natural world and its
cycles, it seems logical and appropriate that humanity is a part
of the spiral of birth, life, death and renewed life that we witness
with the season¹s changes.
Witches follow a firm conviction that each individual is called
to find a spirituality that is appropriate to them. As such, Wicca
is not seen as the only path, but one of many. Wicca is not a
religion that seeks converts from other faiths. And you won¹t
find your neighborhood Witch on your doorstep asking if you¹ve
heard the word of the Goddess! Even the label that followers choose
to identify themselves by can be hard to specify. Many prefer
the term Wiccan, a word with less problematic baggage than its
counterpart, Witch. Others choose to reclaim Witch and revive
the original, positive meanings of the word. One should note that
Witches can be either male or female, the term warlock is never
has its roots in the ancient pre-Christian societies around Europe
and the Mediterranean, most notably those of the Celts, Greeks
and Romans. The religious practices and customs of these diverse
pantheistic cultures infuse present day Wicca with hymns to various
Gods and Goddesses, myths that bring aspects of deity to life
and rituals that create a basis for the rites of Wicca. While
we have much to learn from these peoples who lived closer to the
earth than today's world, this is not a spirituality bound to
re-creating the past. Rather the best of the old ways are brought
forward into a modern context. As a result you may find a 21st
century Witch sharing a centuries old Goddess invocation with
a friend via the very modern medium of the internet!
present day forms of Wicca owe much to the work and writings of
Gerald B. Gardner, who began publishing books on his experiences
of English Witchcraft when the laws prohibiting Witchcraft were
repealed in England in the 1950's. Together with Doreen Valiente
and notable others, the basis of modern Wicca was laid out and
the majority of practitioners today utilize information popularized
by Gardner. In more recent years, a host of new authors have emerged
to continue the evolution of the movement. Authors such as Z Budapest
and Starhawk brought an American feminist perspective to Wicca
and Scott Cunningham and Silver Ravenwolf spread interest in Witchcraft
with clear, accessible books on the subject.
for Wicca or Witchcraft on the Internet an d you'll find a thousand
and one sites. Many are well written and accurate, and, sadly,
many are wildly inaccurate, so use caution. The best site on Wicca
has to be "The Witches' Voice ‘ (www.witchvox.com)
with a huge collection of articles and information. The Little
Mysteries Books links page (www.littlemysteries.com) also features
a selection of recommended sites. And if you're not online or
just prefer a good old fashioned book here's some excellent starter
titles: "Wicca - A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner"
by Scott Cunningham), "Spiral Dance" by Starhawk, "Witches'
Bible" by Janet and Stewart Farrar (relatively dense reading
but very complete), "To Ride a Silver Broomstick" by
Silver Ravenwolf (the cover is a bit fluffy but the information
is down to earth), "Witchcrafting " by Phyllis Currotte
(recently published by the author of Book of Shadows).
Smith is an eclectic Celtic Witch living in Halifax, NS. She has
been involved extensively in the local Wiccan and Pagan community,
including serving on the executive of the Avalon East Pagan Gathering
and as former host of The Witching Hour radio show on CKDU. She
is also co-owner of Little Mysteries Books.
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